MG Motor India’s first SUV, to be launched next year, will have 75% localisation to begin with, will be available in both petrol and diesel, and will be bigger than Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Compass and even Honda CR-V.
In 2019, two big names are entering the Indian passenger vehicle market. One is Kia Motors of South Korea, which made a grand show at the Auto Expo by displaying as many as 16 vehicles. The other is relatively lesser known in India, but big globally—MG Motor of the UK, owned by China’s largest carmaker SAIC Motor.
Founded in the UK in 1924, MG, short for Morris Garages, will launch its first vehicle, an SUV, in India in Q2, 2019. The SAIC subsidiary MG Motor India, formed in February 2017, has started operations at its plant at Halol in Gujarat—it was earlier GM India’s facility which MG took over in 2017. MG Motor has also announced that its second product for India will be an electric SUV.
“We have extensively worked on the Halol plant,” said Rajeev Chaba, president & MD, MG Motor India, during a recent interaction with Indian journalists in Shanghai. “We have set up a new assembly line, a new press shop, and other facilities.” The initial capacity of the plant is 80,000 units per year, which can be expanded to 2,00,000 units. The company has selected 45 dealers and its SUV will go on sale through 100 touch-points. “We’ll finalise the dealers by November 15 … some of the best names are joining us,” added Chaba.
The first SUV
The company’s first SUV will be designed and engineered in the UK and China, “but will be made by Indian engineers,” said Chaba. “It will have 75% localisation to begin with, will be available in both petrol and diesel, and will be bigger than Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Compass and even Honda CR-V.” But, he added, the SUV will be priced that will “positively surprise” Indian consumers.
The closest SUV to the specifications shared by Chaba is the MG HS, which we drove at the Guangde Proving Ground, 250-km west of Shanghai, the largest such facility in Asia. (A proving ground is a place for scientific testing of vehicles.)
The MG HS is a midsize SUV. It is powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine (228bhp) mated to a six-speed TST gearbox (it’s a dual-clutch transmission), and has a top speed of 210kph. Its rated fuel-efficiency is 12kpl. China is primarily a petrol vehicle market so, for India, the company is developing a diesel engine. It gets premium features including Bose/Arkamys sound system, lane departure warning, autonomous braking, collision warning and connected driving features. We found in our brief drive that the MG HS performs almost as well as the three competitor SUVs that Chaba mentioned.
The first electric SUV
The electric SUV (2020 launch) will also be made in India. The company has two electric SUVs in its portfolio and it’s likely the Indian version will be heavily inspired by either of the two. One is the Roewe ERX5. It has a 48.3kWh battery and a range of 320-km. While its full charging time is 7 hours, the ERX5 can be charged up to 80% in 40 minutes using a fast charger. Its top speed is 135kph.
The other is Marvel X (no comparison with Tesla Model X, which is a far bigger and expensive vehicle). It’s the biggest of the company’s SUVs and gets a 52.5kWh battery. Its range is 403-km but, if driven at 60kph, it can go up to 500-km on a full charge. Its top speed is 170kph; the 2WD variant goes from 0-100kph in 7.9 seconds and the 4WD does it in 4.8 seconds.
Chaba said that penetrating the market won’t be easy. “We know the challenges. We aren’t overly confident about success, but are careful. To succeed, we need to focus on three key areas—products, dealers, and after-market operations,” he added.